Develop Your Charisma and Your Career

 In Career Tips

Develop Your Charisma and Your CareerLast Fall, I had the opportunity to hear Charlotte Beers speak. The legendary retired Advertising CEO and former Under Secretary of State had us all in the palm of her hand at the Indiana Governor’s Conference for Women. We were riveted from the moment Ms. Beers took the stage. She was the personification of charisma.

We’ve all experienced someone with great charisma – at a conference, company presentation, or party. They just seem to light up a room.

What It Is

Some describe charisma as having a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ – that magical something. Others might call it charm. I often describe it to my coaching clients as your secret sauce – that distinguishing ingredient that allows you to be your most authentic, confident self in the moment. The bottom line is that charisma is a magnetic quality, and if you’ve got it, people are drawn to you.

Charlotte Beers has it. Bill Clinton has it. Oprah Winfrey has it, as does George Clooney. The question for many is ‘How do I get it? How do I exude that ‘X’ factor?’

Olivia Fox Cabane offers great advice for ramping up your charisma, and, in turn, your career, in her book The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism. Cabane, a charisma researcher and executive charisma coach for Fortune 500 companies, dispels the myth that charisma is something you’re born with, and illustrates that it’s a trait that can be learned. She compares charisma to a dial that can be turned on or off/ up or down.

How To Get It

Cabane breaks charisma down into three basic qualities, presence, power and warmth, and offers guidelines on how to enhance these qualities in your life – especially in your career.


The core of charisma is presence, according to Cabane, and it means giving whoever you’re with your full attention. Leaders like the Dalai Lama, Condoleeza Rice and Bill Clinton are masters at presence because they make others feel like they’re the center of the universe, explains Cabane. She offers these tips to enable you to be more present to those around you:

  • Be an active, empathetic listener seeking to be impressed rather than to impress.
  • If you’re half in/ half out of a conversation, it can make you seem inauthentic and even un-trustworthy. When you feel yourself drifting, sensing your toes is a subtle and quick trick to bring yourself back into the conversation and the present moment.
  • Another quick trick for staying present is to focus on the eyes of the other person.


Confidence and body language are the most important aspects of power, according to Cabane. She offers these suggestions to help you up your power quotient:

  • Go alpha by taking up more physical space. Powerful people make their presence known with a wider, bolder stance.
  • Be still. High confidence body language is characterized by as little movement as possible. Avoid superfluous gestures like fidgeting and excessive head nodding.
  • Since shame is the biggest obstacle to power, continually developing self-confidence is key. Cognitive behavioral techniques can be helpful in de-stigmatizing and detaching from past negative experiences.


Exhibiting warmth lets a person know that you like them, Cabane explains. She offers these tips to help convey it:

  • Be authentic in conversations – it’s hard to fake warmth.
  • In dealing with a difficult person, imagine someone/something you care about to create positive feelings that can be directed toward the other person. This Method acting approach can help get you to a place of warmth if you’re not truly feeling it.
  • A negative reaction to an event (eg: getting cut off in traffic) can affect your mood and how you interact with others long after it’s over. You can reframe the event using your imagination (eg: driver is getting a sick child to the hospital) to create a positive view for yourself  – whatever it takes to keep you in a warm, empathetic place.

If you’re skeptical about actually being able to learn to be more charismatic, Cabane says Steve Jobs is a good case-in-point. She points to Jobs as a prime example of someone who learned charisma over time – evolving from an awkward introvert to an adroit and exciting presenter and leader.

Charisma is what makes people like you, trust you, and follow your lead. It’s about how others perceive you, as well as how you make othersfeel. So here’s to lighting up many rooms by putting your presence, powerand warmth to good work. Here’s to showing the world your own unique brand of charisma!

With over a decade of career and professional development coaching experience, Caroline Dowd-Higgins has a desire to empower and energize people to achieve their personal goals.  Her training style is engaging, high energy, and positive with a focus on unlocking the self-advocate within each of us.  Read more from Caroline at

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